“Everything is connected” – How tools and technologies can come together to drive business efficiency

Christian Pedersen - CHief Product Officer at IFS

In this guest article, Christian Pedersen, Chief Product Officer at IFS, discusses how the ecosystem of systems is vital to deliver fast value to customers.

In today’s fast-paced, highly-competitive business environment, not having employees fully connected, supplied with the tools they need, and working at optimum productivity levels is a non-starter. Technology needs to be an enabler and not an inhibitor of growth and efficiency. Rather than spending time finding ways to make systems and solutions work effectively, organisations need to stay focused on their business, on digital transformation, and on their customers, assets, and people.

That’s challenging because every enterprise today is complex. It is effectively an ecosystem of many different systems. Some of these will be software but there are many other systems to take into account. A single sales department alone will use a range of different processes and IT tools. They will even use separate systems for presentations and demos, for example.

Meanwhile, the procurement department will have their own separate systems and processes. They will have links with warehouse technologies and supplier systems. They may even be responsible for procuring utilities and energy optimisation, such as minimising CO2. These are just a few examples that illustrate that every organisation today consists of a complex mix of different systems, some internal to the company and some external, that work together as part of an overall ‘ecosystem of systems’.

Finding a better way

In this new era where the ecosystem of systems holds sway, traditional approaches to IT often fall short.

Typically, businesses would go out and find a tool to deliver augmented reality or a specific solution for the Internet of Things (IoT). They would then spend vast amounts of time running proofs of concept (PoCs) and simply figuring out how different systems could best work together.

To expand on the IoT example, a vast number of different PoCs have been driven around IoT across the world. Around 80% of them never get into production. The problem is that there is a lack of understanding of the monumental effort that is required to get value from the solution when it is taken into production, mainly because of the effort needed to get every element of it to work together.

To do this effectively, businesses need to connect with technology that can help to coordinate the ecosystem of systems and enable it to all work together in the most seamless way possible. These systems and platforms need to be truly open. That will include having an integrated workflow engine that can work across and within each of the systems in the ecosystem. That also means having a completely open system at the back end that is able to consume capabilities and data from many different sources, both internal and external, directly. The ability to take in excellent weather data and pair it up with historic demand data to create a new more agile demand forecasting model for procurement is just one example.

Put bluntly, to enable businesses in this new ecosystem of systems to thrive, technology vendors need to concentrate less on delivering traditional <insert acronym> “solutions” and more on capability that will actually provide customers with business value, fast.

Customers will be freed from focusing on what their ERP or EAM system needs to do in technical terms. Instead, they can use technology that allows them to best leverage the ecosystem of systems and optimise it to deliver the critical ‘Moment of Service’ to their customers. Whether that is shipping quality products and delivering on time or to promise, or predicting when a product will need servicing and subsequently scheduling an engineer to visit, perfecting the Moment of Service is where any business will differentiate from their competitors.

At the same time, the business should ensure that the technology it has supports its assets in operating at optimal levels and in enabling innovation. Finally, it is also about helping to empower the business to have the right skills and people at the right place and time to drive productivity and engagement.

Making the most of the ecosystem of systems

Rather than an organisation thinking about its business in line with ERP and service management, they should flip their perspective and think about it in line with customers, assets and people. It needs to use technological capability to harness its ecosystem of systems to optimise its offering across these three areas and deliver Moments of Service.

This approach will drive productivity, operational efficiency and competitive edge by ensuring their customers are provided with the precise systems, solutions and capabilities they need when they need it – at the Moment of Service. Today, in a business context, it is increasingly the case that everything is connected – and that’s a ‘win-win’ for all concerned.